At its worst, back pain keeps you from doing the things you enjoy in life. It might be hard to travel or go shopping. Sitting in a car for a great length of time might be unbearable. For others, walking long distances brings about persistent pain.
It’s a common problem, especially among older adults. Back pain affects nearly half of highly active older adults, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Study.
The good news is that many types of back pain resolve themselves with time and rest. However, if you’re having significant pain, numbness in your legs or arms or muscle weakness, it’s best to have it evaluated by an orthopaedic specialist.
There are two types of back pain. If you have acute back pain, it will usually get better by itself. You may never know the cause of your back pain. While you wait for your pain to improve, ask your orthopaedic specialist if it’s OK to take acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen. He or she may also recommend that you get up and move around to ease stiffness.
If you have chronic or longterm back pain, your orthopaedic specialist will likely recommend nonsurgical options to help you get better.
Nonsurgical treatments include:
- Hot or cold packs.
- Exercise, which can ease chronic pain and reduce the risk of it returning.
- Medications, pain relievers or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to relieve pain and inflammation.
- Muscle relaxants and some antidepressants may be prescribed for some types of chronic back pain.
- Steroid or numbing shots to lessen your pain.
- Physical therapy.
When conservative treatments don’t help, surgery may be necessary. Surgical procedures can address herniated disks, spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, vertebral fractures and degenerative disk disease.
No matter what type of treatment you need, be sure to follow a healthy diet that includes calcium and vitamin D, which help keep your spine strong. Losing excess weight also reduces the stress on your back.
+ Learn about The Spine Center of Hampton Roads which helps patients of all ages with back and neck pain. Our specialists use X-ray, MRI, CT, bone scan and other advanced diagnostic tools to evaluate each patient’s individual needs.